By ESTEVAN MEDRANO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
February 19, 2015
The Schlitterbahn Beach Resort received a glimpse of the future men and women of law enforcement as the nonprofit organization SkillsUSA hosted their district competition, while marking their 50th anniversary as a program. Participants were tested in a variety of life-like crime and distress scenarios faced daily by police officers, and students were judged on their ability to analyze the situations, engage accordingly, and analyze evidence. Scenarios included both team and individual events and ranged from felony traffic stop to crime scene investigation. All participants were dressed identically so as not to encourage any bias during judging.
The competition featured approximately 500 high school students, a stark rise from 200 participants just last year.
“I attribute the large increase to House Bill 5, which requires all high schools to have career technology programs,” said District 13 director Minnie Rodgers, who has been a part of the program for 40 years. “I think also you see kids are wanting to get more involved. They’re graduating from career technology programs and they get a certificate and they are licensed and they are ready to go get a job.”
Even those who join the organization without a lot of enthusiasm can be transformed by the benefits of the course, realizing goals and statuses they didn’t think they would ever attain. This was the case with Robert Gomez, the lone national officer from the Valley.
“At first I [joined the program] it because I had to,” said Gomez, who entered the program as a condition of his parents. “But once I got into it I realized all the things we could get from it. SkillsUSA takes these students who really don’t have the opportunity to learn these skills and to actually do things that are going to be important in the workforce. But when we’re in it, we have to do things like building searches, felony stops, things that they’re going to need to do when they go into the criminal justice program.”
Nationally, SkillsUSA has over 350,000 members and growing. The program encourages teamwork and problem solving in order to accomplish challenges.
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